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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
“Sorry, didn’t catch that,” I mutter as I rush in after him, down the narrow, gas lamp–lit hallway and into what, at one time, served as a cozy Victorian parlor. Now it’s more like something out of a natural disaster flick: furniture overturned, windows shattered, paintings slashed, and ancient-looking books strewn everywhere, their pages ripped to shreds.
“Please tell me this is just the aftereffects of some World Cup party gone wrong,” I beg as I survey the scene. But something tells me that even the worst football hooligans wouldn’t have made this much of a mess. Not to mention there aren’t nearly enough empty beer bottles strewn around to suggest a happy fiesta.
I glance over at Magnus, who appears to be intently sniffing the air like he’s Toucan Sam or something. He steps forward, following his nose, over to a swinging wooden door at the far end of the parlor, shoving it open and heading into the next room where, unfortunately, I’m guessing he won’t find any Froot Loops. I run after him, pushing through the door and immediately slamming into him on the other side.
“Um, what?” I ask, trying to peer over his shoulder and into the room, which appears to be some sort of kitchen. Though to be honest, I’m not entirely sure I want to know what made him stop short like that. Especially since he currently appears to be shaking in fright. And let’s just say vampires don’t tend to scare easily.
He takes a step to the side, allowing me an unfortunate up close and personal look at a crumpled body, facedown in a puddle of thick blood. The man is dressed in a druid’s robe but his hands and feet have been bound. And while I’m no specialist, I’ve seen enough CSI episodes to conclude that our victim was shot in the back of the head, execution style. Flies buzz cheerfully around the carcass, evidently having a much better night than we are, and it’s all I can do not to vomit from the smell of rot permeating the room.
“Come on,” I say, grabbing Magnus’s arm and trying to drag him back into the parlor. He resists, locking his feet to the floor. Unfortunately even the most self-controlled vampires tend to lose focus when they come across a big pool of free blood just waiting to be drunk. (It’s like winning the undead lottery to them.) But I’ll tell you right now, if I have to watch my boyfriend mop up this particular puddle with his tongue I will seriously hurl and never be able to kiss him again. Which would suck, big-time, considering what a great kisser he is.
Luckily, a loud moan from the parlor seems to awaken him from his bloodlust. The two of us run back into the main room and look around. Magnus points at a ratty overturned sofa. I grab one end and together we manage to flip it back over to its proper position, revealing another body—this one not so bloody or dead, thank God—curled up in fetal position on the floor.
“Hey, dude! Are you okay?” I ask, toeing the still- living druid with my foot. “What happened here?”
As the man rolls over slowly, his eyes bulge with fright. “Please don’t kill me!” he begs, his whole body trembling. “You’ve already taken everything! I have nothing left to give!”
I squint down at him, taking in the long gray beard and matching robe, tied with a crimson belt. “Llewellyn?” I ask, cocking my head in recognition. “Llewellyn the Pendragon?”
Last time we were here, Llewellyn (probably not his real name) was the one to help us retrieve the Holy Grail blood from under the Tor. Though to be honest, he seemed a lot more majestic and Gandalf the Great–like when he wasn’t shaking like a frightened hobbit.
The druid looks up at me in surprise. “How do you know my name?” he demands as he tries to right himself. Magnus grabs his arm and helps him over to the sofa. I notice his robes are bloodstained, but he doesn’t appear to be hurt. Unlike his poor friend in the kitchen…
“Don’t you remember us?” I ask. “We came here last May and donated a bunch of money to your Goddess in exchange for a little Grail blood.”
His eyes clear with recognition and he nods his head slowly. “Yes,” he says. “Of course. You were the girl who did not want to become a vampire.” He glances over at Magnus. “Though you still seem to enjoy keeping their company…”
If only he knew. “Yeah, long story, that. But I’m sure it’s not half as interesting as what happened here. Why were you hiding under the couch? Who trashed your apartment? And”—I hesitate, not wanting to be the one to break the news if he doesn’t already know—“have you seen your friend in the kitchen, by chance?”
Llewellyn draws in a shaky breath. “You mean Collin. Yes. I’m afraid the wheel of life has seen fit to detach my dear friend.” He sighs deeply. “I can only hope I shall manage to find him again in our next lifetime.”
Ah, right. Being a druid, he’d believe in reincarnation. “I’m sure you will,” I try to comfort him. “I’m sure the Goddess will merge your two souls together as one and your destinies will be intertwined for the ages and—”
The druid holds up a hand. “All I’m after is the fifty quid the bastard still owes me. Pretty convenient he goes and gets himself bloody executed before paying me back.”
“So um, about that,” I say, getting back to the subject at hand. “Who did the old executing anyway? I mean, I’m assuming this isn’t a normal Friday night in for you guys, right?”
The druid scrubs his face with his hands before speaking. “Early this morning, we gathered before dawn in the parlor to speak our daily prayers and present our offerings to the Goddess mother who made us all,” he begins. “But no sooner had we lit our first candle than the front door comes crashing in. A group of five hooded individuals invaded our home, armed to the teeth. Guns, swords, knives— they were a walking, talking armory.” He shudders, as if remembering the rampage. “Their leader demanded to know where we kept the Holy Grail.”